MUNA are the greatest band in the world that nobody knows about. Ask anyone who has been to one of their shows, or heard one of their albums and they’ll struggle to formulate a decent example of just why they are so good. Stayaway does a good job of explaining it, packed to the brim with emotion, exceptional songwriting and a huge hook. The way each verse builds with each line both lyrically and in pitch in genius and comes to a head on an incredible final verse before a final chorus that leads to second chorus that leads to the song falling apart and crashing back in again. MUNA’s best single yet.
The first of three collaborations in a row, Flowers is the joining of two of the years greatest voices. Flowers recalls the stripped honesty that I heard from Little Simz way back when I first heard Wings from her debut album in 2015. ‘Feel the pain of each troubled history, They’ll wipe his memories then tell him his past is a mystery’ the way the song dives into the repeated cycle of troubled artists losing themselves and their lives at 27, but allowing the souls of these two artists themselves to come through as well is incredible. Michael Kiwanuka sounds insanely good here too.
What am I doing putting a Reggaeton song so high on my end of year list? Because Con Altura is THAT GOOD. Built around a sample from a random YouTube clip, a sped up vocal sample to create the melody and the result is this hypnotic, energetic rhythm that just hits hard every single time I hear it. The voices on this song are so intertwined that often you can’t even tell whether it’s still the sample or J Balvin or ROSALÍA singing. All I know is that without fail, wherever I am, Con Altura just feels right. It also contains the greatest ‘say your own name out loud in your song’ moment of 2019.
This is the 3rd time that I have put a Christine and the Queens song at #7 in a best of the year list. I swear it was not intentional, but you have to admire the consistency. Gone sees Chris and Charli manage to create a song that could maybe sit in the discography of each other, but only truly works as they come together. They bring out the best in each other, with such ferocious energy throughout; I’ve never heard Charli sound so engaging as she does here. It’s clattering sounds, but sexually charged and soulful. By the time the dance breakdown smashes in I was absolutely sold that this was the best thing that Charli XCX has ever been involved in.
bad guy will be the song that 5 years from now people complain that ‘This artist is just trying to sound like bad guy, they need to be original’. It’s unlike anything anything on or off the charts that I’ve heard all year and yet it was immediately impossible to dislike. It’s an ironic and genuinely funny song lyrically, yet is produced in a way that stands it out from anything else. Seeing a crowd at Coachella screaming the words back to Billie Eilish just hours after the song had been released was probably the moment everything clicked for me, that this artist who was only just 17 was going to define the sound of pop music for the next decade.
Never Really Over probably shouldn’t be this high. A big sample from another pop song, that weird music video, the hangover from the genuinely bad Witness album skewing expectations? But it’s hard to remember any point of this year where putting Never Really Over on wouldn’t improve my mood, make me feel utter joy and make me remember just what a brilliant pop star Katy Perry is. All 3(!) of the song’s hooks are as glorious as the next. ‘Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it’s really over/And if I think it over, maybe you’ll be comin’ over again/And I’ll have to get over you all over again’ is pop perfection.
Imagine if a song with a title as iconic as this wasn’t actually any good? The best Ariana Grande song since Into You manages to most easily sum up her current style, mood and aesthetic. The N-Sync sample is used so well here, like the song is just playing in the background at the club she’s singing this in. I love the way the beat drops out with a massive echo as she sings ‘I don’t care’ allowing her ad libs space to really live. break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored is the song equivalent of Ariana’s Instagram account, it’s both one of her least personal songs and the closest you feel to her actual personality. It’s not serious in the slightest, but you know it’s lodged in some truth. It’s this that makes it such an engaging pop song, as opposed to the bigger hit, but much less enjoyable 7 Rings.
4 days. That’s how long we had to wait in 2019 for one of the best songs of the year to arrive. Juice is the moment that Lizzo arrived. Yes Truth Hurts is from a few years ago, yes Good As Hell was even longer ago, but Juice was the first time I saw anybody outside of the pop critic bubble talking about how big Lizzo was going to be. This song is just SO DAMN FUN. It’s full of personality; ‘No, I’m not a snack at all/Look, baby, I’m the whole damn meal’ – amazing; ‘I be drippin’ so much sauce/Got a bitch lookin’ like RAGÚ’ – incredible; ‘Somebody come get this man/I think he got lost in my DMs’ – iconic. Juice is Lizzo’s definitive song because every single moment is filled with her charisma and personality. If one thing was to unify the world in 2019, it’s the unashamed joy of Lizzo playing the Flute to this song.
If bad guy put Billie Eilish on the map globally, bury a friend is what got Billie Eilish that audience at Coachella. Unlike everything on this list that I’ve talked about being so joyful and happy, bury a friend is dark and thrilling. There’s sounds on this song that I still can’t discern if they were created on earth. The sound of a dentist drill, screams that sound like they come from a ghost or something, a clicking sound that’s like something from The Walking Dead; I feel haunted by this song and have been ever since I first heard it. The accuracy that Billie says every individual word is the opposite of the ’emotive but don’t enunciate anything’ style of so many singers and it makes the lyrics here feel like a deadly poem that’s being read out to a scared audience. The moments when vocals layer on top of each other, not in harmony, but just as this strange choir sound is so unexpected and each listen gives you more. bury a friend is a spectacular record and unlike anything else on this or any other list, where it was my #1 for many months. Right up until I heard the song that has claimed the top spot.
I’ve done these lists for exactly 10 years now (Which means you know I’m getting ready to do a decade list next week) but in that time no artist has been #1 on either of my lists more than once. HAIM become the first, not because they’ve recreated Falling, but for pushing their own sound somewhere completely different. The bassline on Now I’m In It is so intrinsic to the rest of the song. Here it’st not used as a way of backing up the rest of the track, it’s ALL about that rolling bass from the opening seconds right through to the end. It allows for those thundering drums that kick off the second verse to hit even harder. It allows for Danielle to deliver the most emotive performance of her career. It means that when the lyrics verses start being overlayed on top of the chorus it feels even more impactful. The middle 8 breaks down enough to make the eventual return to that incredible hook even more satisfying. This is a song that’s so typical of me to love. It’s full of layers and a driving energy that while feels totally different to Falling, achieves the exact same thing. I genuinely didn’t think HAIM would be able to match the songs that made their early career so exciting, but with Now I’m In It they are full of confidence and expert musicianship, where this song stands as evidence that they are still pretty much the perfect band for me.